Dulquer Salmaan talks about “Chup”, where a serial killer hunts down film critics

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Filmmaker R. Balki and actor Dulquer Salmaan team up for the first time on “Chup,” a thriller where a serial killer brutally murders Bollywood film critics and carves stars into their foreheads.

The cast also includes Bollywood veterans Sunny Deol (“Gadar: Ek Prem Katha”) and Pooja Bhatt (“Netflix’s Bombay Begums”), Shreya Dhanwanthary (“The Family Man” from Amazon Prime Video) and movie stalwart in Tamil language Saranya Ponvannan (“Viruman”).

Balki, whose credits include ‘Cheeni Kum’ (2007) and ‘Paa’ (2009), both starring Amitabh Bachchan, last directed ‘Pad Man’ (2018), starring Akshay Kumar.

Salmaan is a rare breed in Indian cinema in that he has equal happiness in multiple languages. Malayalam film superstar with hits such as “Kurup” (2021) and “Bangalore Days” (2014), Salmaan is also known for the Tamil-language hit “O Kadhal Kanmani” (2015) and Hindi-language hit “Karwaan” ( 2018). Her recent release “Sita Ramam” was a hit in its Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi versions.

“He’s one of the most fabulous performers I’ve seen in Indian cinema and although he’s a superstar all over the country, in Hindi cinema it’s rare to find someone with that genre. of talent that is still relatively fresh,” Balki said. Variety. “It’s a great combination because people don’t have a fixed image of the kind of star he is.”

“Chup,” which opens in theaters on September 23, comes out when Bollywood found reason to smile with the encouraging box office performance of “Brahmastra Part One: Shiva” after a period of major films underperforming.

Salmaan added, “Across all sectors in India, I think people are really looking to consume original content, new ideas and really new things. And that [“Chup”] is also a genre that I don’t explore very often as an actor in the industries I work in and it was a no-brainer for me to want to be a part of it.

Both Balki and Salmaan have received their fair share of criticism from Indian film critics and “Chup” knows about it. In the first review, Balki read his debut feature ‘Cheeni Kum’, one of India’s top critics of the time trashed the film, sending the filmmaker into a ‘deep depression’ as he put it, although the film is otherwise well received and friends tell him that one person’s opinion doesn’t matter.

“It was important to me and somewhere that thought hit me how come you [the critic] you can say whatever you want, and leave and I’m responsible to you, but you’re not responsible to me,” Balki said. “I found this unfairness in the whole relationship at first depressing and then very fascinating.”

Salmaan says he actively seeks out negative comments or criticism, as it drives him to keep working harder and it influences his choices for film roles.

“That said, when I read these things, sometimes I screenshot them and sometimes in my notes on my phone I write strongly worded responses — I don’t send any of those things,” Salmaan said.

“Chup” is co-written by Balki, Rishi Virmani (“Ki & Ka”) and film critic Raja Sen, known for his often incisive critiques of Bollywood films. Before embarking on the film, Balki, who hadn’t read any reviews of his work after that first review, went back and read them all to “exorcise all those demons from my head”.

Balki appealed to Sen to gain some perspective and balance from a critic’s point of view rather than being a one-sided conversation and also to understand the difficulties and frustrations experienced by critics. “I realized after calling Raja, he trashed me the most, so it was beautiful to sit down with the person you really want to kill,” said Balki, who now has a “deep connection ” with Sen and a “fascinating relationship”. friendship” that developed during the film.

“When you read reviews you see someone as a critical personality – that’s very different from who he might be as people. So it was a bit of an eye opener to see the man behind the words,” Salmaan added of Sen.

“Chup” is also a tribute to the Indian author Guru Dutt, known for “Pyaasa” (1957) and “Kaagaz Ke Phool” (1959). The commercial failure of this last film, produced, directed and starring Dutt, saw him never officially direct a film again and he was eventually found dead in 1964, aged 39.

Salmaan, who is also a producer, knew the music from Dutt’s films and discovered his work, especially “Kaagaz Ke Phool”, while making “Chup”.

“I understand how much easier it is for us today to work digitally, with so many opportunities to make and produce films. And he did something like that, at that time, purely on film, and probably with only one outlet, which is the [cinema] theater,” Salmaan said. “It was the time when it was more for the art, more for the love of cinema and more for the joy of telling the story – you put everything into it and sometimes people would mortgage their house and support an idea with that kind of kind of belief – it’s really fascinating.

For Balki, the cinema of Guru Dutt is a feeling. “The purity of pain, the purity of love, the purity of bad luck…it’s not manipulated, it’s up there, and he went up there and put his spin on it. screen, it’s beautiful and it takes a lot of passion,” Balki said.

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